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May 25 2024


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Cease Fire

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at February 13, 2003 - 5:47 AM GMT

See Also: 'Cease Fire' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Shran and his fellow Andorian Tarah have taken Vulcan soldiers into custody in their struggle for possession of a planet. When Shran insists upon Archer as a negotiator because he believes the human will be fair, Admiral Forrest orders Enterprise to the planet, even though Vulcan Ambassador Soval resents Archer's involvement. When Archer arrives on the surface with T'Pol, Tarah puts hoods on them to escort them to Shran and expresses resentment that Archer has brought a Vulcan with him. She explains that the Vulcan soldiers are not hostages, but prisoners of war, for the Vulcans put Andorians into refugee camps after they claimed and terraformed the planet.

The Vulcans insist that the Andorians are using the planet as a military base, while the Andorians argue that the Vulcans have no right to keep them from a planet they developed. Shran tells Archer the conditions for release of the Vulcan hostages, which include an end to a previous compromise and Andorian sovereignty of the planet. Archer warns that the Vulcans will never agree to all the terms, but he convinces Shran to release one of the prisoners as a show of good faith and promises to try to return with Soval himself so that the long-stalled negotiations will receive attention at the highest levels.

Soval believes that traveling to the surface would signify capitulation to the Andorians' terms. Yet when Archer learns of Andorian ships on the way and points out that refusal to negotiate could lead to war, the Vulcan ambassador reluctantly agrees to a meeting with Shran. The shuttlepod on which Archer, T'Pol and Soval are traveling is shot down; Soval believes that Shran has violated their agreement and wants to find Vulcan backup, but Archer insists that they came to negotiate with the Andorians and that's what they're going to try to do. Soval is shot in ground fire that turns out to have been ordered by Tarah, who believes that Shran is a coward for continuing to negotiate instead of trying to sieze the planet in open warfare.

While Archer struggles with Tarah on the surface, Tucker tries to keep newly arriving Andorian ships from engaging the Vulcans in orbit. Once Shran has arrested Tarah and ordered his medics to treat Soval's wounds, they begin a dialogue which averts a war and leads to hope for a negotiated settlement. The Vulcans agree to drink ale for a toast and Soval informs Archer that his presence was not unduly troublesome, which Shran suggests is a high compliment indeed coming from a Vulcan.

Analysis: An entertaining action hour that at times almost seems politically relevant, "Cease Fire" bolsters the status of Archer in the intergalactic community while making Shran look bad and Soval look about as illogical as usual. The pace is terrific -- good balance of incidents shipboard and planetside, excellent use of the main trinity, no heavy-handed recapping of previous incidents but enough mention to keep them fresh in viewers' minds -- and it's wonderful to see Suzy Plakson back on Trek, though Tarah seems to be quite a step down from senior Klingon diplomat and Q.

But there's very little subtlely, either in characterization or in dramatization. That Tarah will turn on Shran seems quite obvious from early on -- she's an extremist, too angry and too hungry for revenge to really consider that there could be a diplomatic solution. And despite how untrustworthy and contemptuous Soval is, there's no reason for the Vulcans to be the saboteurs of the negotiations -- Soval has come to retrieve the hostages, so getting his own escort shot down would be irrational even for him. I kept wanting to see conscientious Middle East parallels -- two groups of people with legitimate claims to the same land, with lengthy historical struggles and potential terrorists within their own organizations -- but the plot's just too flimsy. Plakson and Jeffrey Combs do their best to breathe life into the stock characters, but there's only so much they can do when the drama takes a turn for the much-too-expected.

In terms of the overall arc of the series, it's nice to see Archer being taken more seriously as a player in the spacefaring community. Forrest brushes aside his doubts, insisting that he's the man the Vulcans want, thought it's not clear whether he doesn't know or just doesn't choose to share with Archer that Shran requested him -- because he's out there while Forrest is Earthbound, Archer may actually be more important to both groups of aliens than his titular commanding officer. He plays his cards carefully with T'Pol, refusing analogies between Vulcan-Andorian hostilities and human-Klingon tensions, rolling his eyes at her questions about how much research he's done, but trusting her completely to remain impartial in the face of Vulcan pressure just as Shran trusts Archer to do the same.

Archer's dilemmas have to do with how best to carry out the charge laid upon him, which reflects not only on his own reputation but that of all humans in space; T'Pol's are more personal, as Soval takes advantage of a few minutes alone with her to suggest that she has sabotaged her career by allying herself with Archer and could be in a position much more akin to his own if she broke her connection with the humans. She argues that her respect for Archer does not mean that she has become contaminated by emotion, but she also tells him that she finds her work on Enterprise gratifying, which he rightly points out sounds like an emotional indulgence. I so wish that she had examined that statement, because I'd love to know exactly what she finds gratifying -- working without the High Command hanging over her head? Helping humans find their space legs? Or is it, after all, personal?

T’Pol is a scientist, and on Enterprise she gets to be a jack of many trades. We’ve seen her acquit herself admirably as a diplomat, spy and commander when necessary, yet she hardly seems interested in a career track with the High Command -– thus far, from what we’ve seen, they’ve been a means to an end and a hindrance more than a help. T’Pol seems somewhat shocked when she learns that Soval was once a member of the team occupying the planet currently under negotiation, that his career as a senior diplomat hinges on a past she finds distasteful. I would love to see a Vulcan episode told from her point of view, or even a day-in-the-life episode told from her point of view, because we’ve seen so much of how humans have changed her in fits and starts; it would be fascinating, for lack of a better word, to hear her own perspective on who she is now, how she thinks about the Vulcan capacity for emotion and mind-touching, how she views her various crewmates.

And though Tucker's role in this episode is fairly brief, he really shines, going from harried engineer who's worried about his equipment to commanding officer who must decide whether to put his ship and crew in between two groups of aliens who seem determined to start shooting at each other. He reminds me a lot of Scotty from the original series -- his first love may be his engines, but he's well aware of his responsibilities in the big chair, even if he's a lot happier when the captain and the Vulcan are back on the ship. He's also funny, joking about how his underwear is flame retardant but he's not going to set it on fire just to make sure, and insisting that nothing happened he couldn't handle while in command despite the gravity of the situation in space.

Phlox has a nice moment with Archer, but the rest of the cast is very much supporting -- two minutes of Sato tracking Archer, one minute of Reed preparing for a potential battle with Tucker using his tactical alert system, and one minute of Mayweather opening hailing frequencies or whatever it is he does. The rest of the time is given over to the aliens, most notably Shran -- who has gone from being a minor operative to someone with real stature in the Andorian C.I.A., it would seem, unless Tarah is more representative of their leaders' true beliefs while Shran is an anachronistic idealist, it's hard to tell. He seems terribly gullible, yet his gullibility ironically also makes him noble and hopeful; it simply doesn't seem to occur to him that an underling who would question his orders also might go behind his back. The differences in personality, temperament and height make Tarah and Shran quite an entertaining pair to watch.

And then there's Soval. Romulan spy hiding among the Vulcans? Or, given what we've seen of the rest of the Vulcans of stature, just a typical irrational jerk? He comes across somewhat better in the end than he has in previous encounters, but maybe he just realizes that he can do what Tarah fears and talk Shran to death instead of fighting a war over a planet the Vulcans seem to want more out of pride than strategy. I will never understand the logic of making them the villains of this series, while the Klingons are reduced to an aside for throwaway comparisons. Ah well, at least they have nice ships, as do the Andorians, and the makeup is superb as always, with Shran's wilting antennae when he realizes he's been betrayed and T'Pol's notice of human ear-envy. They'll all be back, of course. And hopefully we'll get a better sense of where all this is leading.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She is also a staff writer at Green Man Review. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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